Sunday, March 27, 2011

Careers with Dogs

When I was an animal-loving kid, it never crossed my mind that I would have a career with animals. I never went to a dog show or an obedience class until I was an adult, at least 30 years old. I had absolutely no exposure to that world. I vaguely longed to be a veterinarian but knew UC Davis was out of my financial reach. And graduate school? Not a chance.

Kids didn’t get exposed to the possibilities in life back when I was a kid. For my parents, who never went to college, the ultimate achievement was a college degree…and of course I would become a teacher.

Well, I got the degree, and became an artist, something they deemed “impossible.” Teaching was of no interest to me at all. Today I paint pet portraits, board dogs in my home, and pet sit. I’m not rich, but I’m supporting myself. If only…

This book would have opened my eyes to a whole new world way back when. Today, I hope every animal-loving kid gets to read it. Besides describing different animal related careers, Kim interviews people who are actually making a living at it. I was excited as I leafed through it, seeing photos and reading stories about an incredible array of opportunites.

My 15 minutes of fame
I’m proud to say that I am one of the professionals featured in the book, in two chapters. On page 228, Kim retells the story of my first pet portrait, of Mac, my grandpa’s dog, painted when I was in college. The picture hung in their dining room behind his favorite chair for many years. I wish I had a photo of it to compare to what I do today.

On page 327, I talk about my life as a pet sitter, the skills needed, and what a typical day’s work is like. There’s a small photo of me with my cats, Sterling and Whisper. I am so proud to be featured in such a great book!
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dogs bite

On my questionnaire for pet sitting and dog boarding, I include two questions: 1) Has your dog ever bitten? 2) Has your dog ever been in a dog fight?

On a recent new Siberian Husky’s form, I had written “no” answers to both questions. I found out the hard way that the dog had been in a fight before, and severely bitten her owner. 

The owner was picking up her dog. I put all of the other dogs outside except for one, a dominant Lab who didn’t want to go out, so I just let her stay in. The Siberian and the Lab had gotten along fine all week. But when the Sib’s owner was added into the mix, things subtly changed… so subtly that I didn’t see it coming.

In retrospect, the Sib was annoyed at the Lab, who was pestering the owner for some attention. The Sib was jealous and protective of her owner, and the Lab didn’t read the signals, or ignored them, and all of a sudden it was WWIII at our feet.

In the heat of the moment, I did everything wrong. I dove right in and grabbed collars and pulled. A dog–and I don’t actually know which one–turned around and NAILED me on the inside of my thigh. I have never felt such burning pain. The owner got scraped skin but no puncture wound when her dog bit her hand.

We finally got them apart, and threw the Sib in a crate and the Lab outside, then turned to assess the damage. I had four puncture wounds on my leg, but minimal bleeding. The pain was spectacular. The dogs were uninjured.

I went to the doctor and got antibiotics, because any kind of dog bite ALWAYS gets infected. That visit triggered a report to Animal Control, and the officer showed up on my doorstep the next morning. I was in mortal fear that I would be out of business.

The good news
Both dogs were licensed and I had their shot records, showing they were current on all vaccines. The dogs both had to be quarantined for 10 days in their homes or at my house, since we weren’t sure who the culprit was. The Animal Control officer was very cooperative and understood that a dog will unknowingly bite a person when grabbed from behind while fighting. For all the dog knows, another dog is grabbing his neck, where most dogs attack.

The bad news
The fact that this was a “redirected bite” isn’t much comfort to me, since the dog had no bite inhibition whatsoever. She clearly meant to do some serious damage.

The Siberian’s owner told me after the fact that the dog had gotten in a fight a few months ago and had broken her finger…biting her when she tried to break it up. Since then, I’ve been trying to remain neutral, but I can’t help but think the Sib is the one who bit me, since she has a bite history.

More important, I hope this owner doesn’t delude herself into thinking it won’t happen again. She is an inexperienced dog owner, and I believe the dog is on a disastrous course.

Two weeks later, I have a lump on my thigh the size of half a baseball, and the bruise goes from my crotch to well below my knee, and almost entirely around my leg. The color is finally fading, but the memory hasn’t. 

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.